Two days after arriving in California I headed to the hospital to get a PICC Line inserted. A PICC is a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. It is a thin tube which is inserted into a large vein in the upper arm and this is then threaded into another vein that leads to the heart. The PICC line can be used over and over again to administer antibiotic medications, nutritional supplements and also for blood draws. When needing multiple intravenous medications daily this is often the next step as having needles inserted daily becomes painful and also veins begin to fail. During my first trip for treatment my veins became very problematic and this was just another layer of stress to add to what was already an erupting volcano of chaos!
There are of course risks with having this access line put in, but I feel in my case the benefits far out weigh the risks right now. The procedure itself wasn’t too bad. Luckily I had the support of a friend of mine who was also in the US getting treatment for Lyme. We met through an online Lyme support group but she has become a true friend and support to me daily and our similarities go beyond life with lyme. We are both the same age, have big dreams and are grabbing onto all treatment opportunities in the hope to achieve remission. To have her and her mum by my side was just such a huge relief and comfort too. The hospital was really efficient and before I knew it I was in my glamorous gown and cap and ready to be wheeled into theatre. The doctors and nurses were good at making conversation and distracting me from the procedure. It didn’t take very long and insertion was not really that painful either. The area on the selected arm was numbed and carefully disinfected and then the only small pain was what I would describe as a hard pinch and the rest was pretty painless. The line was inserted using an X-ray as a guide to ensure it was correctly placed and not touching the heart. It was not long before I was wheeled back out of theatre with my new ‘accessory’, it was all a bit surreal! Later the same day I had increased pain in the arm but this is normal, it was just the medication wearing off and my body adjusting to this new foreign object.
I felt very aware of my line at first, nervous to catch it or to move my arm too much and disturb the placement. You just have to be very careful, your range of movement is more limited and you can’t lift anything heavy with that arm, but most of the time you forget that it is there. The connecting tubes can neatly coil under a small fabric arm cover and this prevents the line getting pulled or caught in clothes. I was aware at first that people could see it, but I feel used to it now and just know it is part of the process to help me heal and I must just roll with it the programme, so to speak.
Having a PICC line or a Port seemed to be my only options for this next stage of treatment and be more beneficial long term too. For now I accept that it is just part of the process and it is providing reliable access for the medication I need daily. Showering is a palava and the arm can’t be submerged in water. Finding a reliable waterproof sleeve has proven difficult when you have a super skinny upper arm but with added strapping, cling film and medical tape I am just about managing! I have the dressings changed weekly at the clinic and the insertion area carefully cleaned in a sterile environment to reduce the risk of infection. Mixing and administering medication is becoming part of a daily routine and pretty much my full time job! I have to keep a track of ordering supplies and medications and I rely on multiple lists and spreadsheets as an extra brain! Sometimes it can all feel quite overwhelming but I know I must stay strong for getting through this difficult time now will allow me a future.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of my journey in the Lyme light where I will be giving you the low down on the past four weeks of treatment and life so far on this side of the pond.
Thanks for reading and for your continuous support.